Friday 3 August 2012

The Marilyn Mystery

August 5th will be the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death. You may have noticed her presence more in the press lately; a blonde woman with big half closed eyes, a heart shaped face and cherry lips. Her image is instantly recognisable and has been a constant apparition in popular culture for the past 60 years or so. She is probably the greatest sex symbol and feminine icon in modern history and has come to represent the ultimate in tragedy, beauty, star power and glamour.

As a glut of new material claiming to add extra substance to the Marilyn myth is published and broadcast I can't help wondering just how horrified Marilyn would be to know that her every move has been examined down to the last detail. Everything from her dry cleaning receipts to her love affairs and personal diaries have been forensically studied and put out for mass public consumption.

Long lost lovers, friends and family have all queued up to sell their own version of the Marilyn experience, and I'm sure the list will never cease because the demand is always there, we all want to know what she was really like. As she once said about the frenzy of press and fans that followed her during her life, "... everybody is always tugging at you. They'd all like sort of a chunk of you. They kind of ... take pieces out of you.... but you do want to stay intact -- intact and on two feet."

Marilyn lived her life in the glare of the spotlight and it has to be said gloried in it; she shone and turned herself into whatever people wanted her to be; a malable female figure, the template for every woman in the public eye since; to just be herself wasn't enough, she had to fit the ideal. In modern day it's safe to say many women feel the same pressure to conform. 

Even half a century after she died we are still the owners of her image, we loot it, study it, borrow it, pull it apart and stick it back together to fit our needs. Marilyn Monroe is, I think, the modern western world's most iconic female. She has become more than the sum of her parts because we invest so much into her legend.

I worry though that we will never cease to keep wanting more from her. Her privacy has been invaded with reckless abandon, her life has become a series of moments to be consumed. But here's where I feel the real enchantment kicks in. Because no matter what we think we know, or how much we find out in the future, Monroe the woman is a total enigma.

During her life she was multi-dimensional, she craved attention and longed for retreat. She played up her character of the dumb blonde but wanted to be taken seriously. She was completely self absorbed yet she was a great friend, generous and giving to the last. Her life was a constant battle to balance out all her complex contradictions.

In death we are no closer to finding out who Marilyn Monore really was. We'll never be able to fully understand her, she is a like all the greatest goddesses that came before, unattainable. We believe in her but her existence is nothing but a mystery.